18 Parenting Hacks for Keeping Your Car Clean on a Road Trip

For a Mess-Free, Stress-Free Road Trip with Kids

Written by Carly Hallman

How on Earth can parents possibly keep their cars clean on road trips, especially when there are multiple children or even pets sometimes traveling with the family? Luckily, there are methods to the madness! Parents have devised all manner of clever car-cleaning tips and tricks for keeping small messes contained, including everything from how to keep car cup-holders clean to simple car organization tips to keeping seats gunk-free. These travel hacks for parents will allow you to go for miles without worrying so much about spills or hunting for the stuff you need.

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18 Parenting Hacks for Keeping Your Car Clean on a Road Trip

“Ingredients” Notes
Shoe Organizer + Headrest Make a cheap DIY backseat car organizer for your kids.
Silicone Cupcake Wrappers + Cup-Holders Catch crumbs and loose change.
Empty Tissue Box + Grocery Bags Always have trash bags handy with a cheap dispenser!
Heavy Roll of Gaffer Tape + Travel Cup Ran out of cup-holders? No big deal; just use a heavy roll of tape to keep your drink steady.
Muffin Tin + Storage Basket + Cups You can also store a whole bunch of cups with some ingenuity.
Fitted Sheet + Car Seat Keep snacks and spills off of the seats.
Candy Tube + Quarters Always have change for tolls handy.
Old DVD Case + Notepad + Colored Pencils Kids can color without losing their pencils.
Suction Cup Shower Caddies + Car Window + Crayons Keep toys and crayons within kids’ reach.
Long Bath Rug + Car Seat Have two kids? Catch crumbs between them.
Cling Wrap + Straw + Cup Make any old glass fit for travel!
Sauce To-Go Cups + Pacifiers Keep extra pacifiers always handy and clean.
Craft Organizer Box + Candy & Snacks When they’re done snacking, just shut the lid.
Plastic Cereal Container + Grocery Bag Always, always have a trash bag handy! This keeps your trash covered and upright.
Shower Caddy + Oils and Fluids If the car breaks down, have this caddy handy and don’t get oil all over the back of your car.
Old Coffee Creamer Container + Snacks Pour out portions of snacks easily.
Small Mason Jar + Baking Soda + Any Essential Oil + Scrap Fabric This DIY car air freshener sits in a cup-holder and will keep things smelling fresh.
Old Cookie Sheet + Car Seat Food and messy activities stay on the DIY tray.



How to Travel With Kids and Stay Sane

The secret of traveling with kids is keeping everything clean, organized, and within arms’ reach. Always have wipes, napkins, and baggies handy (an easy way to keep that stuff together is to put them in old tissue boxes and rubber-band them together). You’ll also need a place to put your trash, and if you have a big van or truck, multiple trash cans may be best. (Depending on the age of your child, it can help to avoid the constant attempts to hand you garbage!) Many of the car-cleaning hacks for moms and dads that we’ve listed help to ensure that everything is clean and nearby.

It’s also important to keep kids fed and entertained while on a road trip, but not all activities need to be messy. Use magnets for mess-free games, or simply ensure that crayons and markers can be easily put away. When eating, make sure items aren’t sticky, and use recycled containers to keep snacks super-organized. Pass items in small quantities, too, to avoid a big mess!

Make-Ahead DIY Projects

If you’re looking forward to a vacation or family road trip, cleaning hacks can include small DIY projects that help catch crumbs and keep things handy. For those who aren’t afraid of the sewing machine, many parents have come up with some cool car hacks that don’t take very much time at all to complete.

What to Do When Spills Happen: Cleaning Tips for the Road

What if, despite your efforts, your children still manage to spill juice, cereal, toys, crayons, or snacks everywhere? We’ve come up with some car-cleaning hacks for parents that will make it super-easy to clean up on a pit stop along your road trip.

  • Do you have pets? Wipe away pet hair from your car’s upholstery with a squeegee or rubber glove.
  • Use lint rollers to pick up cereal or crushed cereal powder.
  • Intense carpet spills can be cleaned up with hydrogen peroxide and water.
  • Baby wipes are one of the more effective tools for cleaning seat belt straps.
  • Whenever your child gets out of the car, take a moment to brush crumbs out of their seat. Having a toothbrush or small paintbrush handy can help!

The Parents Behind These Amazing Ideas

These amazing moms and dads came up with many of these great ideas, and they’ve come up with many more! Check them out:

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